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Design strategist, an emergent role in business

Updated: May 17, 2019

As you probably know, I define myself as a design strategist. While the role of a design strategist within an organisation might be clear to some, I’m sure it can be quite confusing for the rest us.

OK, let’s explore where this term ‘design strategist’ comes from:

Strategic design is an emerging theory which is the evolution and mixture of two different ways of thinking about business: strategic thinking and design thinking.

Strategic thinking emerged after the second world war as a way for management to cope with an increasing level of rivalry which was surging in many industries.

Strategic thinking

Strategic thinking focuses on rational thinking to achieve a sustainable advantage.

Design thinking is a more recent theory and business practice. Design thinking aims at discovering un-articulated customer needs (which are needs that customers are not able to tell us about), and that will become the starting point for new growth initiatives.

Design thinking

The management of many organisations is facing a hard time in buying into this concept of design. On the other hand, designers repel the idea that managers can become any good at it. So, there you go, this is a classic example of the changing or better evolving nature of management.

So, what’s the role of the design strategist within a business?

Well, it is to maintain a balance between the rationality of the strategic decisions a company makes while keeping an open eye on the customers and their changing set of needs.

The role of the design strategist varies a lot depending on the level of the development of a product or service, or company stage.

Let’s say that in a startup, but also in an established organisation developing a new product, the design strategist plays the key role in projecting the current strategy into the new product or service.

In other words, design strategists are useful when change is already happening within organisations. On the other hand, an essential role of the design strategist is to become the catalyst for change, by fostering and provoking it when it’s not happening organically.

Let’s conclude this post saying that there is, within any successful organisation, someone playing the role of the design strategist.

We need to clarify who is playing the role of the design strategist within our organisation, and also, more importantly, if this role is in the hands of only one person or spread among different players.

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